UNOG - United Nations Office at Geneva

11/01/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/01/2017 11:14

COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN REVIEWS THE SITUATION OF WOMEN IN KUWAIT

1 November 2017

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the fifth periodic report of Kuwait on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Jamal Alghunaim, Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Kuwait was committed to reviewing and modernizing legislation relevant to women's affairs in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women; to promoting the political participation of women; and to establishing an institutional mechanism for the protection of women from all forms of violence. There was progress in increasing the participation of women in non-traditional fields, and today there were 500 female police officers of various ranks, women made up 44 per cent of investigators, and 22 female public prosecutors had been hired. A national mechanism for women's affairs - the Women's Affairs Committee - affiliated with the Cabinet, had been set up to empower and promote the status of women in Kuwait, and 16 May had been designated as the Kuwaiti Women's Day to mark the day on which women had achieved all political rights. Kuwaiti women had paved the way forward for Gulf women, they had been the first to assume leadership positions as university presidents, ministers and members of parliament - this was a credit to the role of Kuwaiti women and the efforts by the Government to enable women.

Committee Experts commended Kuwait for the leadership in promoting the role of women in the society and in the region, and welcomed the achievements in the areas of education and health care. The best way to combat violence against women was to socially, economically and politically empower women, Experts noted and urged Kuwait to take all necessary measures to strengthen the political participation of women and increase the number of women in Parliament. An issue of great concern was discrimination against women in matters of nationality; Kuwait should further expand its fight against discrimination and enable women to pass nationality to their foreign spouses and their children. Women still required the signature of a male guardian before any surgical intervention, Experts noted and asked when a woman aged 21 would be able to consent to a medical procedure herself. Kuwaiti women were very well educated but their participation in the workforce remained low, and considerable gender gaps remained, also due to the fact that very few women worked in the well paid oil and military industries. Experts inquired how Kuwait would proceed to the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation which would specifically prohibit all forms of gender-based discrimination, direct and indirect; about the situation of migrant domestic workers who made up nearly one third of the workforce but did not enjoy labour protection on an equal footing with citizens; and about the status of the bill on domestic violence and the establishment of hotlines for violence against women.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Alghunaim reiterated that Kuwait had made combatting all forms of discrimination against women its priority and would continue to make legislative and policy changes that were necessary to implement the provisions of the Convention pursuant to the Constitution and Islamic Sharia.

Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks commended Kuwait for its efforts and encouraged it to address various recommendations which the Committee would issue with the purpose of the more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.

The delegation of Kuwait included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Labour, Directorate-General of Human Resources and Finance - Manpower, Committee on Women's Affairs, Kuwait University, Senior Advisory Council for Family Affairs, Supreme Council for Planning, and the Permanent Mission of Kuwait to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Thursday, 2 November at 10 a.m. to consider the eighth periodic report of Kenya (CEDAW/C/KEN/8).

Report

The Committee is considering the fifth periodic report of Kuwait CEDAW/C/KWT/5.

Presentation of the Report

JAMAL ALGHUNAIM, Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the report, said that women represented more than half of the population in Kuwait, and also made up 55 per cent of the national workforce. To promote and empower women in the society, Kuwait had committed to adopting a number of policies, including to review and modernize all legislation relevant to women's affairs in order to contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women; to support programmes to develop the economic and social capacities of women, and promote their political participation; and to establish an institutional mechanism for the protection of women from all forms of violence, including domestic and social violence, and to provide support services to victims of violence. Additionally, a number of professional opportunities had been opened to women in the law enforcement field; today, there were 500 female police officers of various ranks, and women made up 44 per cent of investigators. A department for domestic work had been established to put an end to any violation of rights in accordance with international human rights instruments; it also received complaints from employers and domestic employees. Furthermore, Kuwait had hired 22 female public prosecutors, and the Supreme Council of the Judiciary had issued a decision in October 2017 to reinstate the employment of additional females in the public prosecutor office in the next judicial season.

Kuwaiti women received unparalleled support for their political and public participation, including as university professors, chief executive officers of public and private companies, ambassadors and diplomats, and military officers. The Cabinet had designated 16 May as Kuwaiti Women's Day, to mark the day on which women in Kuwait had achieved all their political rights. A national mechanism for women's affairs - the Women's Affairs Committee - affiliated to the Cabinet, had been set up to empower and promote the status of women in Kuwait; to promote the role of women in the society and enable them to take part in sustainable development, and improve the economic participation of women in all sectors; and to raise cultural awareness of all women in the country. Shelters for victims of all forms of violence against women had been set up as well.

Vital indicators had signalled marked developments in the areas of maternal mortality, and utmost importance was being given to the right to education and learning without any discrimination between women and men. As a result, women's enrolment in public schools had reached 52 per cent and 66 per cent in higher education, and a marked increase in the number of female teachers had been observed: women represented 100 per cent of pre-school and kindergarten teachers, and over 70 per cent of primary school teachers. Gender inequality had been abolished by removing gender disparities in public and higher education, thus effectively putting an end to gender-based discrimination in the nation. In conclusion, Mr. Alghunaim reiterated the commitment of Kuwait to its international human rights obligations, welcomed the dialogue and comments by the Committee Experts, and stressed the close cooperation with civil society. Kuwaiti women had paved the way forward for Gulf women, they had been the first to assume leadership positions as university presidents, ministers and members of parliament - this was a credit to the role of Kuwaiti women and the efforts by the Government to enable women.

Questions from the Experts

Opening the dialogue, a Committee Expert welcomed the adoption of gender indicators and the establishment of a national gender institution as well as the achievements in the areas of education and health care, and commended Kuwait's important role in humanitarian responses in the region.

How would Kuwait proceed to the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation which would specifically prohibit all forms of gender-based discrimination, direct and indirect?

The national development strategy had a focus on women, but a national plan of action for the implementation of the Convention, with a focus on women, was not yet in place.

Kuwait continued to maintain its reservations to several articles of the Convention, said the Expert and expressed concern about the existence of legal provisions which still discriminated against women, for example in matters of nationality, honour killings, and the prohibition of night work for women. Personal status law in particular was discriminatory against women in matters of marriage, guardianship and inheritance. What was the timeframe and strategy to lift the remaining reservations and remove the discriminatory provisions from various laws?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation recalled that Kuwait had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1992, and this Convention was now a part of the domestic law. Therefore, all Government agencies and individuals were expected to respect its provisions. Article 70 of the Constitution stated that the Emir informed the National Assembly of the laws to be considered, and the adopted laws were published in the Official Gazette.

As for the laws adopted to combat discrimination, a delegate explained that the national legal system referred to the rights of women in many areas, and to their protection against discrimination which was enshrined in the Constitution and in international human rights instruments. The laws provided women with rights and duties. The State of Kuwait had adopted specific laws for women, for example in the area of housing the law provided for positive discrimination to enable women to access housing as a matter of priority. In the labour field, women were protected from dangerous jobs, and there was positive discrimination in the laws on national service, on children, and on persons with disabilities. Women had privileges in the areas of retirement and annual leave.

Kuwait had begun to implement its national development strategy and a part of the approach to developing the legislation involved cooperation with the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practise, and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons - both had visited Kuwait and had issued their recommendations which Kuwait was actively considering.

The Committee on Women's Affairs was in place and reported to the Council of Ministers, while the rights of women were protected by the Constitutional Court which received complaints of discrimination.

The Law N°15 of 1959 did not exclude the transfer of nationality by women; over the past several years, more than 2,000 children of Kuwaiti women had been naturalized. Kuwait had a very solid constitutional framework which guaranteed equality between women and men, and Kuwait had made great strides in this regard.

The Kuwaiti Centre for Legal and Judicial Studies organized human rights training for the judiciary, including on the Personal Status Act on matters of guardianship, divorce, inheritance law and others. The Centre also organized training for public prosecutors in the areas of human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, and international human rights instruments and their place in the domestic legal framework. A protocol had been signed between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Judicial institute in Kuwait under which Kuwaiti judges had been trained in Geneva on the implementation of international human rights instruments in their rulings.

The delegation stressed that Kuwait did not have major reservations to the Convention and underlined that Kuwait only entered reservations if the provisions were contrary to the teachings of the tolerant Islamic religion of Kuwait or if it was contrary to the terms of the Constitution.

Questions from the Experts

Turning to issues concerning the national gender machinery, an Expert asked about the Committee on Women's Affairs which reported to the Council of Ministers, and asked about its role in relation to the review of legislation, and the initiatives that were currently being considered for the future. What system was in place to ensure that this body had sufficient human and financial resources?

What coordination system was in place between the Women Affairs' Committee and other relevant institutions in Kuwait, including the National Centre to Combat Domestic and Societal Violence?

The national human rights institution had been established according to the Paris Principles but it was under the Council of Ministers which was not fully in line with the Principles.

Another Expert commended Kuwait for measures taken to promote the role of women in the society which had made it a leader in the region, and for the support provided to United Nations entities in the field of human rights. Turning to the use of temporary special measures, the Expert noted the still inadequate political participation of women and urged Kuwait to consider the use of such measures to improve the participation of women in public and political life.

Responses by the Delegation

Responding to the questions raised on the Women Affairs' Committee, a delegate said that it had been established by the decision 634 of 2012, under the aegis of the Cabinet of Ministers. Its objectives included organizing training and awareness sessions on the rights and duties of women, examining all issues referred to it by other Government entities, examining some draft laws pertaining to women's affairs, and consulting with women from all walks of life.

As for temporary special measures, the delegation said that Kuwaiti women had fully achieved their political rights and held positions in the National Assembly, municipal Councils, and other bodies. Kuwait did not apply temporary special measures as it did not want to clash with the provisions of its Constitution, and being a democracy which did not distinguish between women and men, it opted not to give additional rights to women in terms of quotas.

Kuwait had taken a number of measures for the future, including through its national development strategy, and in this, it was meeting regularly with civil society and women's organizations.

In 2015, Kuwait had issued a law to establish a national human rights institution, the Diwan for Human Rights; this represented an implementation of a recommendation that Kuwait had accepted during its Universal Periodic Review process. The Diwan was a permanent body in charge of human rights, supervised by the Council of Ministers, independent from the Government authority, and mandated with the protection of human rights in the country.

Another delegate said that Kuwait had allocated $ 2 million to promote and support the participation on women in political and public life, including through training of candidates.

The delegation praised Kuwaiti women for the humanitarian roles they played in the region and beyond, including for the Rohingya.

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert recognized the steps that Kuwait was taking to eliminate the negative gender stereotypes and traditions that negatively affected women, for example, Kuwait had amended the educational curricula in conformity with international conventions, but negative traditional views of women still remained. What was being done to further develop a positive image of women and their role in the society? What was the role that civil society and religious institutions played in this context?

In matters of violence against women, it was commendable that Kuwait had put in place shelters for victims of violence against women, but the law still remained blind to gender-based violence, and there was no law on domestic, marital or conjugal violence. This was a sensitive subject but it required an intervention, stressed the Expert.

What was the status of the bill on domestic violence and the establishment of hotlines for violence against women that had been put forward by some members of parliament?

The 2013 law on human trafficking and the bylaw to implement it were in place, but the problem remained in connection with domestic workers. Any type of abuse must be investigated and perpetrators punished, insisted the Expert. Was data available on the implementation of this law? The Committee had been informed that the punishments meted out were administrative rather than criminal, which perpetuated impunity for the crime.

Could the delegation inform about the shelter for battered foreign domestic workers which had 500 beds, and was there a plan of action to combat violence against domestic workers? Was there a body that received complaints of exploitation of domestic workers, and other potential victims of human trafficking?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that Kuwait had witnessed a leap that went beyond negative gender stereotypes - Kuwait was the very first country in the region which had sent women abroad on scholarships, and one of the first to have made education of women and girls obligatory. A part of the Friday sermon was dedicated to the status and role of women in the society, as an effort to raise general awareness. The first female president of a university in the Middle East was a Kuwaiti. This meant that negative gender stereotypes did not exist any longer. Islamic Sharia called for respecting and dignifying women.

A strategic plan for removing gender stereotypes was in place, and part of measures involved work with the media on portraying women appropriately and with dignity; a documentary on women in non-traditional professional fields was being made and would be shown internationally. The university had a number of specific departments dedicated to women, for example the gender in society department, women in politics department, and the women and psychology department.

The delegation stressed that all forms of violence against women and children were prohibited in Kuwait, and the laws provided women with an opportunity to access justice and take their attackers to court. The Family Court was in place and received complaints from women.

There was indeed a parliamentary proposal of a law on violence against women and hotlines for violence against women, which sought to criminalize violence against women and introduce specific sentences for all forms of violence against women. Kuwait had already taken administrative steps with regard to violence against women: it had enabled the police to receive complaints and set up shelters, and had not waited for this law to take concrete steps to support victims of violence. The bill was about to be considered by the legal committee of the Government before being sent back to parliament for consideration.

Kuwait accorded greatest attention to the phenomenon of human trafficking and had invited the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons to visit the country and issue recommendations. The implementation of those recommendations was taking a bit longer than ideal, which was due to the change in Government, but the commitment of Kuwait was unwavering.

More than half of the population of Kuwait was made up of foreigners, said a delegate; a centre had been set up under the 2014 law and 72 people victims of human trafficking had been repatriated in cooperation with the migration authorities, while more than 50 had been arrested for the crime. The law 91 established a human trafficking prosecutor entitled to carry investigations and take the necessary steps, and a decree had been recently adopted to set up a Committee composed of a number of Government agencies to develop a national strategy against human trafficking.

The Domestic Worker Labour Code had been adopted in 2015. It was an unprecedented piece of legislation and the first in the region, and regulated the work of 60,000 migrant domestic workers in the country.

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert stressed that the best way to combat violence against women was to socially, economically and politically empower women, and noted that, despite being granted the full right to vote recently in 2005, the number of women in parliament remained very low. Political participation of women was one of the goals that Kuwait had committed to.

It was essential for women to enter parliament, stressed the Expert, and congratulated Kuwait on the appointment of women prosecutors. The increasing number of women in public offices was a sure sign of modernity and progress. The Committee was aware of the specific challenges in Kuwait, and urged the country to work to further support the political participation of women.

As for non-discrimination with regard to nationality, another Expert expressed hope that Kuwait would remain open to lifting its reservation on article 9 of the Convention. Nationality was a link between an individual and the State, and an essential and fundamental right that guaranteed the individual the protection of the State. Kuwait was working very hard to address stereotypes, and the Expert urged it to further expand its fight against discrimination and enable women to pass their nationality to their foreign spouses and their children.

There was a need to address the issue of statelessness in Kuwait, particularly the situation of Bidun, and combat discrimination in this field as well.

Responses by the Delegation

Kuwait was among the most active countries inside the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said a delegate, and informed the Committee of the efforts to support the candidates for the National Assembly, including training. The journey ahead was still long, and the situation in Kuwait needed to be assessed in the context of the country and the region.

Women had achieved their full political rights in 2005 when they obtained the right to vote, and following the 2009 parliamentary elections, four women had entered Parliament, without quotas. Kuwait was aware of the importance of having as many women as possible in leadership positions, and the delegate said that women were moving up and forward: today they held 30 per cent of the leadership positions in the banking sector and 18 per cent in the oil sector. The Government had given women training and funding to enable them to move to the next stage of the national development strategy.

As for the nationality issue, non-governmental organizations were working on it and they would be holding a conference on the issue in two weeks from now. The law did not allow double nationality, and nationality was passed from father to children.

In terms of stateless persons, the delegation said that children of Kuwaiti nationals enjoyed all humanitarian services, and also had access to a renewal card which enabled them to obtain documents such as a driving license or a marriage or death certificate; they also had access to education and health on an equal footing with citizens. For naturalization, they were subject to the conditions stipulated in the law.

The delegation stressed that the demography was a national security issue and not a human rights issue and Kuwait took a step-by-step approach to the issue. It had achieved important progress and had naturalized 2,000 stateless persons this year alone.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts took positive note of the steps taken to ensure equal access of women and girls to education, and asked for data on the participation of women in non-traditional fields of study and data on access to education of migrant children. Concern remained about gender stereotypes in education and textbooks, for example women were portrayed as subservient.

The participation of girls in education was 52 per cent in primary and 66 per cent in higher education - why was there a higher percentage at higher levels of education? Where were the boys - did their absence from public education mean that they were in private schools, and thus privileged over girls?

On employment, what would be done to improve the participation of young women in the workforce? Did a married woman require her husband's approval before taking a job? Kuwaiti women were very well educated, but a considerable gender gap remained - was that because men worked in the better paid oil and military sectors, while women occupied less paid Government positions?

Migrant domestic workers constituted nearly one third of the workforce in Kuwait, said an Expert and commended the adoption of the 2015 domestic workers labour law which provided certain protections, but not on an equal footing with citizens. Would this law be adjusted in line with the International Labour Organization Convention on domestic workers and ensure equal labour rights? What plans were there to change the kafala system and allow migrant domestic workers to freely change employers without putting in question their legal status?

The abortion legislation was restrictive and allowed only under some circumstances - were rape and incest valid reasons to seek legal and thus safe abortion?

A signature of a male guardian was required before any surgical intervention on a woman, Experts said and urged Kuwait to ensure that each woman aged 21 and over was able to consent to medical procedures herself.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that Kuwait was very proud of its health indicators, particularly in maternal and child health, which were among the best in the region and in the world. The law on abortion aimed to guarantee the right to life, and health services were guided by that principle. Abortions were allowed in very specific circumstances to protect the lives of women and were conducted in specialized clinics.

Women signed their own consent to surgery forms, unless it was an emergency.

The workplace was open to all without discrimination. There were conditions of employment that all candidates had to fulfil regardless of their gender. Women were in leadership positions in the banking, telecommunication and education sectors, and in a number of other fields. There was no law which compelled a woman to have her husband's approval before applying for or accepting a job.

Article 26 of the labour code mentioned the principle of equal pay for equal work, and differences existed in terms of entitlements and benefits with the highest going to the husband. Many women were not keen on working in the oil or military sectors. Women were indeed excluded from a number of professions, which were hazardous and arduous and threatened women's safety, such as mining, butchery, firework, and others. Women were allowed to stay late at work in some professions, such as medicine or pharmacy, by force of an administrative decree.

As for the kafala system, the labour code did not mention the word kafala or sponsorship; the relationship between the employer and employee was regulated by an administrative decree. Until a few years ago, an employee was not allowed to change an employer for a period of three years, but the new administrative decree lifted all restrictions from the change of employer.

The delegation clarified that two women held high-level leadership positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and women held many other positions in permanent missions abroad, including in Geneva and New York.

The school textbooks promoted the culture of sharing and understanding, and put accent on promoting the positive role of women in society. There was a visible balance and an equilibrium in the representation of the roles of women and of men; the curricula did not discriminate on the basis of gender, and boys and girls followed the same curricula.

Over the past years, the number of girls who married between the age of 15 and 19 had been reduced by 90 per cent. The number of women in the teaching workforce had increased because of greater demand for the profession.

Women in Kuwait were attracted by non-traditional professions and fields of study, and they made up more than 70 per cent of students in medicine; 80 per cent in pharmacy, engineering and dentistry; and 90 per cent in information technology and supporting medical professions.

Ninety per cent of the private sector workforce was made up of men, but the large foreign population needed to be taken into account in understanding this statistic. As for the Kuwaiti workforce in the private sector, 51 per cent were women.

Every household in Kuwait had a domestic worker and that was why the 2015 law on domestic workers had been adopted in line with the International Labour Organization Convention 189 on domestic workers. The law prohibited employing people under the age of 21 and above the age of 65, and tackled important issues such as the guarantee of a wage. The law specified that food and accommodation could not be considered a wage; defined the obligation of the employer to provide health care; and set out the length of a working day and the rights to sick and annual leave.

Boys had many opportunities to seek an education or employment, explained a delegate, and they could leave school to look for a job in the army, or go and study abroad. Girls in Kuwait sought education and higher education, and that was why the proportion of girls among the students was higher than boys, and Kuwait was very proud of this fact. The decision to send a child to a private school, and how to use the resources of the family, was the purview of the family.

Questions from the Experts

With regard to combatting all forms of discrimination against women in economic and social sectors, an Expert asked about the social security system in Kuwait and asked whether there were differences in how the system treated female and male beneficiaries. For example, it had been reported that a woman inherited half of the deceased husband's salary or pension, while a man received the totality of the deceased wife's pension. What this true and if so, what steps were being taken to address and correct such discriminatory treatment?

What access did women have to credit and banking services, and to sports?

In the absence of national asylum-seekers and refugees procedures in Kuwait, the needs of these population groups could not be adequately addressed, noted another Expert. More than half of refugees and asylum-seekers were women, and they experienced difficulties in accessing basic services and employment.

Another vulnerable group of women in Kuwait were those who suffered from mental health problems. The mental health law was not in place, and psychiatric hospitals were veritable prisons. What was being done to adopt a special mental health act and regulate the rights of patients in line with the World Health Organization's recommendations?

Responses by the Delegation

The social security system in Kuwait was one of the best in the world, said a delegate. On top of this system, there was the zakat, an Islamic charity institution though which assistance was provided to people in need.

As far as refugees and asylum-seekers were concerned, Kuwait was ready to help wherever the help was needed, and it was closely cooperating with the United Nations Refugee Agency. It was not only about signing international conventions, stressed a delegate. Kuwait had been involved in the pledging conference for the Rohingya which had taken place in Geneva recently, and had been very active in the organization of three pledging conferences for Syrians. In addition, Kuwait welcomed and protected refugees from Syria, Palestine, and elsewhere.

The International Committee of the Red Cross had concluded an agreement with Kuwait, and it visited prisons and mental health hospitals, and all those efforts, together with awareness raising, offered broad protection.

The 1969 law on social security benefits had evolved over time, and together with other legislative acts it provided the basis of the social protection. A delegate said that 48,000 people benefitted monthly from the system, and of those more than 37,000 were women. The system for dispensing the aid was very strict.

Families and women were being provided with aid to learn a trade such as sewing or carpeting, free of charge. It was an opportunity for women to obtain marketing and retail skills.

Each woman over the age of 50 who did not work was given a regular monthly payment.

The law on mental health was being finalized and would soon be adopted by the national assembly. The psychological health hospital was not a substitute to other centres, and any violations of patients' rights were investigated by the authorities.

As for civil society, there were non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations in Kuwait: 314 civil society organizations, 35 charitable organizations and 87 so-called mabarra (endowment) organizations. They received regular financial support from the Government to enable them to implement their activities.

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert stressed that a number of legal provisions in Kuwait continued to discriminate against women, and, underling the importance of withdrawing the reservation on article 16, asked whether Kuwait would be willing to allow public debate on the lifting of the reservation and establish an open dialogue with civil society.

It was regrettable that the Committee's previous recommendations concerning the status of women in marriage and the family remained largely un-implemented, with the Personal Status Act continuing to discriminate against women in a number of areas, including in marriage, inheritance and divorce, as well as guardianship. Nothing had fundamentally changed on the ground.

The discrepancies in the application of the Sunni and Shi'a laws further complicated the situation. Despite the recommendations from this Committee and other human rights bodies, the age of marriage for girls remained at 15 which could lead to girls being forcibly married and could also lead to their dropping out of school.

What steps would be done to ensure the equality of women in matters of the family, marriage, divorce, inheritance and marital property, and to discourage and prohibit polygamous marriage?

Responses by the Delegation

In response to the issues raised by the Experts, the delegation said in connection with the reservation that open debate was allowed in Kuwait, civil society was there, as was parliament, and serious issues were being debated in an open manner regularly; nothing was beyond debate and dialogue. There were restrictions - legislative and religious - that Kuwait could never go beyond by virtue of being an Islamic State governed by tenets of Islamic faith. Citing examples from other Islamic States was not helpful. Kuwait was a conservative country surrounded by other conservative countries, said a delegate, urging the Committee to read the geopolitics of the region.

Another delegate said that the 1984 Personal Status Law was a legislative umbrella that governed relationships in the area of marriage, law, inheritance, alimony and others; it depended primarily on the Islamic Sharia which was a foundation of the Constitution. The law comprised items that provided more protection to women compared to any other laws, for example, the protection from forced or coerced marriage, the right to alimony, and the right to maintenance by the husband. The custody of children was given to the mother.

The Family Courts existed in each Governorate, and were staffed with appointed judges to deal with issues including alimony, travel of child under custody, and other relevant issues. A permanent committee under the Ministry of Interior was in place to review and modernize laws and address any gaps or vacuums in a draft law and also review the existing law; it was comprised of legal practitioners and judges, and female representative of non-governmental organizations. The Personal Status Law required the consent of the woman to marriage; a marriage could not be certified unless the girls was over 15 and the boy over 17 years of age.

There was a commission on women's rights and a commission on human rights in parliament, and there was an open dialogue on a range of issues of interest to the society, which indicated that the space for public debate was rather large. For Kuwait, the principles of the Islamic Sharia were fundamental and its laws were drawn upon it.

Concluding Remarks

JAMAL ALGHUNAIM, Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Experts for all their efforts to promote women's rights and combat discrimination against women, and thanked the civil society organizations whose actions testified to a dynamic action on women's rights in Kuwait. Kuwait had made combatting all forms of discrimination against women its priority; the Committee's questions and comments would be an important contribution to this endeavour. Kuwait fully intended to implement all the Committee's recommendations as a part of the partnership on human rights, and would continue to make legislative and policy changes that were necessary to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women pursuant to the Constitution and the Islamic Sharia.

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, commended Kuwait for its efforts and encouraged it to address various recommendations which the Committee would issue with the purpose of the more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.

For use of the information media; not an official record

CEDAW/17/36E

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